Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, under whose rule an estimated 500,000 were killed during a seven-year civil war, was welcomed to Iran by top government officials, Reuters reported Monday.
It was Assad’s first visit to Iran since 2010.
The Syria ruler was embraced by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. According to Syrian state television, the two leaders said that they had agreed “to continue cooperation at all levels for the interests of the two friendly nations.”
“Syria has managed to stand firm against a big coalition consisting of America, Europe and their allies in the region through the resistance and cooperation of its people,” Khamenei told his guest, according to an account on Iran’s semi-official PressTV.
Russian involvement in Syria’s civil war, which began in 2015 at Iran’s behest, has been deemed as “crucial” in turning the tide of the war in Assad’s favor.
Iran and Russia decided to work together to protect Assad even as Iran was negotiating the nuclear deal with China, Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.
According to Reuters, Iranian-backed militias have asserted control over what had once been Sunni areas around Damascus. As the civil war winds down, Iran’s influence in Syria is growing, as “it has struck economic and trade deals” with the Assad regime.
According to a 2017 report, the deals between Iran and Syria will largely benefit Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The report also mentions that Iran’s presence in Syria raises the risk of a confrontation with Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said repeatedly that Israel will not allow Iran to establish a military presence in Syria.
In The Iranian Empire is Almost Complete, which was published in the December 2016 issue of The Tower Magazine, Hanin Ghaddar explained Iran’s strategy of repopulating areas to create Shiite “security zones” within which it can project its power.
[Photo: Mehr News ]